Laurie Dunham, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD-S is the owner of Laurie Dunham Nutrition and an outpatient RD on a multidisciplinary Eating Disorder Treatment team.
What is your current position?
I work on a multidisciplinary Eating Disorder Treatment Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, primarily as an outpatient dietitian. I provide nutrition therapy & education for adolescents & young adults, along with their families, who come to our program at any stage of their eating disorder. Occasionally, I work with the inpatient team on the eating disorder medical stabilization unit. Working in a large teaching hospital, I have many opportunities to educate medical students, residents, fellows, and dietetic interns. I specifically enjoy mentoring RDs who are interested in eating disorders & just learning about health at every size (HAES). This year I started offering Body Positive groups via telehealth and this has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my over 20 years as a dietitian.
I also have a private practice, Laurie Dunham Nutrition, where I see adults with all forms of disordered eating. In addition to providing one-on-one nutrition therapy from a HAES lens, I offer Intuitive Eating & Body Acceptance groups. I am passionate about teaching others and spend part of my time in this position supervising & consulting with other RDs who are interested in eating disorders. I love the flexibility and creativity this position offers.
How did you get started in your career?
I started working as an outpatient dietitian at a weight loss clinic (apologies) a few months after my internship ended. Due to random circumstances, I became the nutrition manager of one of the offices. Marketing, training a small number of employees, and other managerial tasks were added to my nutrition counseling responsibilities. I loved the outpatient aspect but quickly realized I was involved in an area that did not align with my values. Less than a year later when a position became available in Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, I jumped on the opportunity. I was trained by another RD to work with adolescents who had a variety of nutrition needs, including eating disorders. About a year later, an official Eating Disorder Team was formed in our division and, aside from the year I stepped away to stay at home with my kids, I have worked as part of this team in some capacity or another since it began. When I started working at the hospital, I was fortunate that my Division encouraged & funded my attendance at various eating disorder conferences and trainings. I spent much of my spare time reading anything and everything on the topic of eating disorders. I was quickly immersed in a specialty area and I haven’t looked back.
What advice would you give to someone new to the field?
Shadow, observe & talk to dietitians and mental health therapists who are working in the eating disorder field. Ask questions about their day-to-day work; what they love and what they wish they could change. Learn as much as possible by listening to podcasts & webinars, reading books & journal articles, and attending conferences if feasible. Many trainings are now offered virtually which helps keep the cost down; you can share the cost with a colleague if CEUs aren’t an issue. Find a mentor or supervisor to help you with challenging patient/client situations- this is invaluable. Talk to Eating disorder professionals who are in a completely different setting than you may see yourself in. For example, if you think you want to work at the residential level, talk to a researcher and an outpatient dietitian too. The RDs I’ve trained and/or mentored over the years always have one thing in common: passion. When passion is present, the rest will fall into place. You may know immediately that you have a strong desire to help those with eating disorders, but there is a good possibility you may not discover how exactly to use that passion for a number of years to come; be patient. Be open to new ideas and never stop learning!
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